Race Driver: Grid was four years ago, and it still feels uniquely fresh. The vibrant colours, the throaty engine notes and the arcade handling all added up to a thrilling ride. So this – a direct sequel – is a most welcome surprise. Let’s find out what’s what.
Grid was a clever game. By splitting up the action into three distinct categories (and territories) it immediately connected with gamers familiar with each kind of racing, and players could specialise neatly and aim for the vehicles and driving styles that they preferred.
I was always more into the Japanese circuits, preferring the drift-heavy handling of the Nissans and such over the muscle cars of America or the exotics of Europe, but the fact that the choice was there was clever, and has been aped a few times since.
Few games could call you by your real name. It was odd at first, but I’ve found I’ve often missed it since.
Likewise, the solid career mode was involving and entertaining, providing a solid single player jaunt through a lengthy and difficult campaign. And although the multiplayer servers were flicked off for PlayStation 3 owners a while back the game still runs online elsewhere and still offers plenty of bumper to bumper action.
The game even spawned an arcade machine, but apart from a slight tease from developers Codemasters a couple of years back the studio has been completely silent on a sequel to the much loved original. Something about Grid just clicked with gamers, and they were hungry for more.
The Race Returns
Which, neatly enough, brings us to this. Grid 2. It’s back, and it’s bigger and better than you might have hoped for.
In pre-production since 2010 and now fully occupying the newly branded Codemasters Racing studio, Grid 2 is a fully fledged sequel, which draws on everything that Grid did for a whole new title for PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
It’s a way off yet – we’re told nothing more specific than 2013 – but it’s coming.
Once again the player will find themselves battling on the tarmac across the globe – Codemasters are only really talking about Chicago and Paris at the moment, but you can expect plenty of new locations to be featured – think Abu Dhabi, Miami and California.
Total Race Day Immersion
Interestingly, Codemasters are billing Grid 2 as a “cinematic” race experience, something that’s echoed in the trailer and the screenshots. It appears that there’ll be a similar style of presentation to that found in the more recent DiRT games – cutaway camera shots and so forth – and to back this up the developers are punting something called Total Race Day Immersion.
Since the first Grid, racing titles from Codemasters have used first person views in the sections between races to great effect (not least in the current Formula One games) – Grid 2 promises to ensure the race is the “heart of the experience”, and that’s going to manifest itself in the form of considerable advancements to the EGO engine. Expect better damage and smarter, more devious AI.
“We’re pushing boundaries once again with what can be accomplished in the genre via new tools, technology and innovations.”
“We’re going to make street, track and road racing exciting again,” added Clive Moody, the game’s Executive Producer. “The core design philosophy for GRID 2 is that we treat the race as a character, not a consequence of simply putting cars on tracks. Everything that goes into the game impacts on that second-to-second, in the moment, blockbuster drama – the feel and personality of the race.”
- Sequel to the popular Grid
- Will be released in 2013
- Offers single player, split screen and online with RaceNet
Strong words, perhaps, but then Codemasters are right to be confident. The first Grid defined a blueprint for the studio going forward in terms of game structure and graphical style, but it also introduced the ability to rewind (called Flashback in Grid, but used famously by Microsoft’s Forza since) and wasn’t afraid to really ramp up the visual damage and flashy effects.
Sparks and shredded bonnets don’t make a racer, of course, but I always appreciated the happy medium that Grid offered in terms of handling: throwing a car sideways around corners was a blast, but the physics engine was precise and delicate enough when required. It didn’t pretend to be a sim by any stretch, but it was definitely a notch above arcade and clearly accessibility and fun were determining factors.
“TrueFeel” aims to balance real world physics and approachability for maximum driving fun.
In Grid 2, the physics will build on the existing handling model so it won’t feel alien, but the new “TrueFeel System” will ensure that just enough real-world physics are used to hit what Codemasters are calling a “sweetspot” between ease of use and something approaching simulation levels. It means that players can dive in and have fun straight away, but there’s a learning curve available if you want to truly master the game.
In terms of car choice don’t expect too much variation from the norm, except that Codemasters are pulling from 40 years of motor engineering for the line-up, with vehicles from – again – the USA, Europe and Japan. Naturally they’ll be fully licensed both in terms of the cars and the sponsors you’ll be fighting for, but you can also expect to see licensed race tracks in amongst the usual city and downhill mountain events.
Grid 2 will also use RaceNet as expected, and will also feature split-screen racing, something that’s sadly missing from a lot of heavyweight games in the genre. It does sound like Codemasters are wanting to go all out to satisfy the fans that have been asking for a follow up to Grid for all these years, and all the boxes that we can think of appear to be ticked.
If Codemasters can nail the handling, get the AI sorted out (and let’s have less of that rubberbanding) then Grid 2 could be something really special. Its gritty, noisy older brother still looks the part and plays with the kind of recklessness that’s all too often missing outside of this particular developer – if Grid 2 can stay true to the same principles, we’ll be in for a fun ride next year.